Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a simple strength test that we can administer to athletes that is quick, convenient and inexpensive and provides us with a general indication of their total body strength levels? One that requires minimal equipment, is relatively in expensive and can be used with any athlete without making any necessary adjustments? Well the hand grip test has often been used as a predictor of overall strength in both athletes and non-athletes alike. Hand grip strength can easily be assessed quickly and conveniently with a hand dynamometer. One simply grabs the handle and squeezes as hard as possible with their arm by their side. The dynamometer measures how much force was generated during the squeeze. It isn’t uncommon for right handed people to be 10% stronger on their dominant side, however, this difference is less clear with left-handed individuals. This may be attributed to the fact that left-handed people are often forced to use their right hand for daily tasks in a right-hand dominant world (Incel et al. 2002).
Recently, some interesting research was presented at the International Colloquium on Sports Science, Exercise, Engineering and Technology that investigated the relationship between hand grip strength and total body strength and power measures (Jawan et al. 2014). A total of 100 high level male athletes approximately 20 years of age from various sports were included in this study. One rep max (1RM) values were acquired in the lat pull down, incline bench press, leg press and leg extension. Hand grip strength was assessed via hand dynamometer and vertical jump values were assessed with a Vertec device. Interestingly, the hand grip strength showed no significant correlation with any of the 1RM values. Less surprisingly, hand grip strength showed virtually no correlation with vertical jump values. The author’s concluded that hand grip strength was not a very accurate measure or predictor of total body strength or power in high level athletes.
Though this study demonstrated a poor relationship between grip strength and other strength parameters, there are still questions left unanswered. What relationship, if any, exists between hand grip strength and neuromuscular fatigue? In other words, would daily hand grip strength reflect fatigue in strength athletes? What value would this have as a monitoring tool for training load determination?
It’s quite clear that the law of specificity prevails once again in the context of the current study. Perhaps hand grip strength may only relate to grip intensive exercises such as deadlifts and Olympic style lifts that were not included in this study. In the mean time, feel free to experiment on your own or wait for more data to be available before you go out and purchase a hand dynanometer for your assessment protocols.
Incel, N. A., Ceceli, E., Durukan, P. B., Erdem, H. R., & Yorgancioglu, Z. R. (2002). Grip strength: effect of hand dominance. Singapore medical journal,43(5), 234-237.
Jawan, L., Adnan, R., Sulaiman, N., & Ismail, S. I. (2014, January). Efficacy of Handgrip Strength in Predicting Total Body Strength Among High Performance Athletes. In Proceedings of the International Colloquium on Sports Science, Exercise, Engineering and Technology 2014 (ICoSSEET 2014) (pp. 29-38). Springer Singapore.